Penn State Sanctions-Deterrent or Wrist Slap?

This morning NCAA officials announced what some media outlets are calling an “unprecedented” list of sanctions against Penn State for its role in the cover-up relating to former coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of minors. There’s little doubt that the sanctions hit the renowned football program where it hurts-$60 million in fines, a four year ban from bowl games, the loss of 20 scholarships for four years, and five years probation. While the NCAA could have gone further by shutting down the program altogether, in effect it did just that for the foreseeable future. It not only stripped Joe Paterno’s wins from 1998-2011, it made it virtually impossible for the new coach to attract football talent to the school. That will cost the entire Penn State community much-needed revenue and a huge loss of prestige.
But, what does it do for those who’ve been victimized by Sandusky and the institution? It doesn’t rebuild lost innocence or trust. It doesn’t undo the emotional and psychic scars left by the heinous acts. In reality, that’s the real tragedy of sexual abuse. No amount of money or punishment for the perpetrators will undo the damage inflicted. I often tell my client survivors this. In a sense, justice in these cases is beyond our reach. The horror inflicted is too great. The only true justice is to stop sexual abuse of minors before it starts. Once it occurs, it’s really too late.